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Enforcement Without Focus: Non-Violent Offenders Caught in the US Immigration Enforcement System

Since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in 2003, its immigration-enforcement agencies—Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—have been officially devoted to the protection of U.S. national security and the prevention of terrorist attacks. However, much  of the work done by CBP and ICE on a day-to-day basis involves apprehending and deporting non-violent immigrants who have only committed immigration offenses such as unlawful entry or re-entry into the United States. The highly punitive treatment of these immigration offenders serves no national-security purpose and is not an effective deterrent.

A new report released by the University of Arizona’s Center for Latin American Studies identifies three enforcement programs that have contributed significantly to an over-emphasis on low-priority targets: Operation Streamline, the Alien Transfer and Exit Program (“lateral repatriation”), and Secure Communities. The report, In the Shadow of the Wall: Family Separation, Immigration Enforcement and Security, is based on data from the Migrant Border Crossing Study. During 2010, 2011, and 2012, a team of researchers from the United States and Mexico conducted survey interviews with 1,113 recent deportees about their experiences crossing the border, being apprehended by U.S. authorities, and being repatriated to Mexico. The surveys yield new insight into the conduct and consequences of U.S. immigration-enforcement programs.

Operation StreamlineRead more...

Published On: Tue, Apr 02, 2013 | Download File

Two Systems of Justice: How the Immigration System Falls Short of American Ideals of Justice

There is a growing consensus that our immigration system is broken. Severe visa backlogs hurt U.S. businesses, undocumented workers are frequently exploited, and record levels of deportations tear families apart. While much energy is now focused on addressing these problems, one issue that is frequently overlooked is the structure and quality of justice accorded immigrants who are caught in the enforcement net. In reforming our immigration system, we must not forget that the immigration removal system—from arrest to hearing to deportation and beyond—does not reflect American values of due process and fundamental fairness.

The failure to provide a fair process to those facing expulsion from the United States is all the more disturbing given the increasing “criminalization” of the immigration enforcement system. Although immigration law is formally termed “civil,” Congress has progressively expanded the number of crimes that may render an individual deportable, and immigration law violations often lead to criminal prosecutions. Further, local police now play an increasingly active role in immigration enforcement. Consequently, even relatively minor offenses can result in a person being detained in immigration custody and deported, often with no hope of ever returning to the United States.

This special report is a product of the Immigration Policy Center and the Legal Action Center of the American Immigration Council.  It lays out the the incongruency of America's criminal justice system and its immigration justice system, and provides recommendations for how these problems could be fixed.

Read the report here.

Read the policy recommendations here.

Published On: Tue, Mar 19, 2013 | Download File

The Advantages of Family-Based Immigration

Since the enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965, legal immigration to the United States has been based primarily on the family ties or the work skills of prospective immigrants. Under the provisions of current immigration law, the family-based immigration category allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs), or “green card” holders, to bring certain family members to the United States. There are 480,000 family-based visas available every year. Family-based immigrants are admitted to the U.S. either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through the family preference system.

The contributions of family-based immigrants to the U.S. economy, local communities, and the national fabric are manifold. They account for a significant portion of domestic economic growth, contribute to the well-being of the current and future labor force, play a key role in business development and community improvement, and are among the most upwardly mobile segments of the labor force. This fact sheet provides an overview of the economic and social advantages associated with family-based immigration. In particular, it highlights the direct benefits resulting from the participation of family-based immigrants in the labor force, their contributions to the community, and the key—yet often underestimated—value of the unpaid care work provided by immigrant women.

1.     Families are crucial to the social and economic incorporation of newcomers.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Mar 14, 2013 | Download File

Why Don’t They Just Get In Line?

The Real Story of Getting a “Green Card” and Coming to the United States Legally

Many Americans wonder why all immigrants do not just come to the United States legally or simply “get in line” to gain residence (a “green card”) if they are undocumented. Yet few people understand how grossly out-of-date the U.S. immigration system is and how unable it is to keep up with the demands of a growing and changing U.S. economy and to reflect the needs and values of our diverse nation. Lawmakers have failed for nearly 20 years to update our immigration laws or address the limited opportunities for securing legal immigration status. Today’s overly restrictive legal limits on green cards mean that virtually all undocumented immigrants have no avenues for legal entry to the United States

No “line” available for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants

Suggestions that immigrants who are in the United States illegally—numbering an estimated 11 million—should simply get in line miss the point: There is no line available for them and the “regular channels” do not include them. If given a choice, opinion surveys of undocumented immigrants indicate that 98 percent would prefer to live and work legally in the United States and would do so if they could. Furthermore, a recent survey of Latino immigrants found that more than nine in 10 who have not naturalized said they would if they had the possibility.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Mar 14, 2013 | Download File

AIC Executive Director Ben Johnson's Testimony Before the House Judiciary Committee

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and provide testimony on behalf of the American Immigration Council. The American Immigration Council is a non-profit educational foundation which for 25 years has been dedicated to increasing public understanding of immigration law and policy and the role of immigration in American society.

Today’s hearing on “Enhancing American Competitiveness through Skilled Immigration” provides an opportunity to engage in a thoughtful conversation about the role that immigration can and should play in building a 21st century America that prospers and grows. Prosperity is a shared goal that unites us all, and offers an important lens through which to evaluate the vital role immigration plays in our economy today, as well as the necessity of retooling our outdated and hopelessly broken immigration system. As we do so, however, it is critical for us to recognize that skilled immigration encompasses a wide range of individuals with very different educational and occupational backgrounds. Moreover, the talent we seek very often comes to these shores not only through employment-based channels of immigration, but through family reunification, the admission of refugees and asylees, and can even be found within the current population of unauthorized workers.Read more...

Published On: Tue, Mar 05, 2013 | Download File

Always in Demand: The Economic Contributions of Immigrant Scientists and Engineers

With the U.S. economy in the midst of a prolonged slump, it’s hard to believe that any industry would actually benefit from having more workers. But that is precisely the case when it comes to those industries which depend upon highly skilled scientists and engineers. The United States has long faced a dilemma in this respect: the U.S. economy is capable of absorbing more high-tech professionals than the U.S. educational system produces. That is one reason so many U.S. scientists and engineers are immigrants. In “STEM” occupations (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the foreign-born account for 26.1 percent of workers with PhDs and 17.7 percent of those with master’s degrees. Even more U.S. scientists and engineers would be immigrants if not for the arbitrary limits imposed by the U.S. immigration system, particularly the inadequate supply of green cards and H-1B visas. Given that STEM professionals tend to create jobs through their innovative work, such limits are economically self-defeating.

Immigrant scientists and engineers create new jobs.Read more...

Published On: Mon, Mar 04, 2013 | Download File

A Bipartisan Bridge to Prosperity: High-Skilled Immigration Legislation in the 113th Congress

In the spirit of bipartisan immigration reform, a geographically diverse contingent from both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation to strengthen high-skilled immigration and spur economic growth by recruiting and retaining entrepreneurial talent. Research is clear that high-skilled immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs are a source of strength for America’s economy and innovative competitiveness. Currently, the most common routes for high-skilled immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the U.S. include: H-1B visas for “specialty occupations” (which most commonly refers to occupations requiring “the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s or higher degree”), L-1 visas for “intracompany transferees,” O-1A visas for individuals with “sustained national or international acclaim” in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, and E-2 visas for treaty investors, which are available to citizens of countries with treaties of commerce and navigation with the U.S. The three new pieces of legislation include the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, the StartUp Visa Act of 2013, and the Startup Act 3.0.

Immigration Innovation Act of 2013Read more...

Published On: Mon, Mar 04, 2013 | Download File

Overhauling Immigration Law: A Brief History and Basic Principles of Reform

By Mary Giovagnoli

For more than a decade, efforts to systematically overhaul the United States immigration system have been overshadowed by other events—from foreign wars and national security concerns to the financial crisis that threatened to bring down the world economy. In addition to this ever-changing list of national crises, years of partisan political fighting and the resurgence of a volatile restrictionist movement that thrives on angry rhetoric have made opportunities for advancing genuine reform few and far between. As a result, many in both parties opted for a political strategy that emphasized immigration enforcement over immigration reform, holding to the argument that efficiently deporting non-citizens would reduce illegal immigration and pave the way for more sensible outcomes in the future. Instead, the unprecedented spending on immigration enforcement, the extraordinary rise in deportations, the passage of state anti-immigrant laws, and the almost daily anecdotes of separated families and discrimination finally took their toll. Voters signaled in the 2012 federal elections that they were tired of enforcement-only immigration policies and the senseless pain they caused. Now more than ever, the opportunity to craft immigration laws that reflect American values and needs is a distinct possibility. The White House, Members of Congress, and countless organizations have issued new ideas and principles for making the system work. These proposals vary and will likely change even more as proposals translate into legislation, but there are a number of common themes that exist. This paper lays out an overview of the underlying legal system, the most basic principles of reform, the reasons behind them, and how they are likely to be reflected in coming legislation.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Feb 14, 2013 | Download File

The Dividends of Citizenship: Why Legalization Must Lead to Citizenship

The most concrete proposals for immigration reform thus far in 2013 include earned legalization with a path to U.S. citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States. This is a process that essentially permits unauthorized immigrants to come forward and receive a provisional legal status that—after paying taxes, proving they understand English and civics, passing all criminal and other background checks, and showing they are committed to the United States—allows them to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs). From there, like other LPRs before them, they will have to decide whether or not to make the final commitment to their adopted country by becoming American citizens. Some critics of the new proposals argue that citizenship is too good for unauthorized immigrants, or that legal status is really all they need to thrive in this country. But that kind of short-sighted thinking ignores some very important facts: more than half a century ago the U.S. finally abandoned the idea that there should be a second-class status for any group by denying them citizenship and, in fact, today the vast majority of Americans support a path to citizenship.

The integration of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants now living in the United States into full citizenship is not only good for those individuals, but the country as a whole. Citizenship, and the quest for citizenship, facilitates integration in myriad ways that legal status alone does not. From the learning of English and U.S. civics to the earning of higher incomes, serving jury duty, and voting in elections, citizens and would-be citizens benefit from a deeper form of incorporation into U.S. society than do legal immigrants who have no hope of ever applying for naturalization.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Feb 07, 2013 | Download File

The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform (1990-1997): “Jordan Commission”

As the Congress begins a serious discussion on immigration reform, it would be a mistake to ignore the lessons of the past.  In that vein, many members of Congress are invoking the The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, informally known as the Jordan Commission, for its chair, Barbara Jordan, a former Democratic Congresswoman from Texas.  Issued in 1990’s, the Commission’s recommendations reflect the thinking of the time, but do not necessarily provide guidance for resolving today’s immigration crisis.  This fact sheet provides a brief overview on the Commission and the necessity of tempering its recommendations with the knowledge we have gained in the past quarter of a century since its recommendations were released.Read more...

Published On: Tue, Feb 05, 2013 | Download File